Chain reaction: the (slow) revival of US nuclear power


Interesting article. It says that nuclear power costs 11.39 cents per kilowatt hour, while coal costs just 9.5 cents. The cost for nuclear is so high because it includes the amortization of the cost of construction of the plant, so obviously part of this differential is our of our own regulatory making.

But even without considering that we could make nuclear power cheaper by working to make nuclear power plant construction cheaper, when you combine the cost with the data on deaths from various power sources per terawatt hour found here and the numbers change.

Coal causes 15 deaths per terawatt hour, while nuclear causes just 0.04. A terawatt is a billion kilowatts. At 1.89 cents per kilowatt more than coal, nuclear costs $18.9M more per terawatt hour. Factor in the cost in human lives at just $3M per person, and the cost for coal goes up $45M per terawatt hour, or 4.5 cents per kilowatt hour, while nuclear goes up just $0.12M per terawatt hour, or 0.012 cents per kilowatt hour.

In sum, nuclear is cheaper than coal if you add the cost in human lives, without even considering the environmental cost in general. Nuclear is still more expensive than natural gas, which costs only 6.6 cents per kilowatt hour and is only about a fourth as deadly as coal (although still far more deadly than nuclear).


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